Review: iBolt mPro NFC Micro USB Car Dock

Earlier this year, I reviewed an great car mount from iBolt called the iPro2. How good is it? I still use it every day. Its sturdy, well built, adjustable, and keeps my iPhone secure and easily accessible for Maps. The best part of it is that it comes with a quality MFi compliant lightning cable built it with a long enough cable for any car. It’s something I would recommend for any iPhone owner, even more so now then back in February. But what about Android or Windows Mobile users? You’ll be happy to know that iBolt has another device for you guys, the mPro NFC.

The Only Android Dock You’ll ever need.

mpro-back
The mPro is very closely related to the iPro 2. The cradle, adjustment arm, and accessories are similar, if not identical in design including the ball joint connector for the cradle. This allows for use of use and 360* operation on your dash, connected to your windshield and in landscape or portrait. Its long extension arm, optional spacer, and rear tabs allow this dock to securely fit almost any phone from small to jumbo sized.

It also works with most cases. The catch is that it has to have a MicroUSB port with the long end of the port facing backward. Fortunately that includes most devices including the popular Samsung phones. The port is technically reversible, but it requires removing two small screws, turning the connector, and then replacing the screws. This won’t be something you do on the fly in your car. The Micro USB connector is connected to a 6ft cable that will give you enough lead to plug in almost anywhere. In the practical sense, its almost too long. Most other docks on the market are bring your own cable and the mPro gives you one for very little more money. Its full charge and sync as well, so you can plug this right into your car stereo, or into your USB 12v adaptor.

Dock n’ Drive and NFC

dockndriveapp
There is only major difference between the mPro and the the iPro 2: NFC. While you won’t be making any payments with this dock, the NFC tag allows you to set up the mPro to automatically launch iBolt’s Dock n’ Drive car interface app when you place your phone in the cradle. This is something I very much wish Apple will allow them to do if they ever release an API for the NFC chips in the iPhone 6 and 6S.

Dock n Drive is a bit limited on iOS, but it’s a really great full featured interface on Android. It’ll show you your speed with full compass, your address, and give you full audio controls, but it also acts as a launcher for other Android apps, functions, and contacts. You get up to 30 in total. The app’s settings also also give you a lot of control over what does and doesn’t work while your driving. This helps not only keep distractions out of the way, but also keeps those with small data plans from blowing through their allotment while driving. There’s also a companion app called Dock Mode that gives you a floating icon on top of your other apps to quickly switch back to Dock N’ Drive. It also integrates well with a dash cam app, but you that might not be usable depending where your device maker put the camera.

In short, Dock N’ Drive is as as good to a full screen environment while driving as you can ask for. Its optimized for the car, but gies you full control of your device. Did I mention its free.

Pricing and Availability

The mPro NFC is $39.99. Combined with the free app and integrated 6ft MicroUSB cable, that’s a price you should gladly pay.

Final Thoughts

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If I had to have one car dock for an Android phone, this would be it. It takes everything that was great about the iPro2, customizes it for Android, and adds in NFC and a more useful app to boot. Why are you even reading this? Just buy the damn thing. The only reason you might not want this is if you have a newer phone with USB Type-C and hopefully iBolt will do something there as well.

Pros

  • Sturdy
  • Adjustable
  • Full 360* ball joint for full motion
  • Fits most cases
  • 6ft Micro USB charge and sync cable
  • Great free app

Cons

  • Reversing connector isn’t practical in the field.
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The Tech Hangout’s “Review” of the iOS 9 and OS X 10.11 Betas….

Grade: Incomplete.

That they’re both in beta and will likely change making any attempt to review them at this time moot. Further more, the quality of user experience isn’t up to what you’d expect in a finished product with features and apps buggy because the code isn’t finished yet. If this sounds like we’re trolling all the other sites who live off of them, damn right we are. Also, unless you’re a developer or a tech journalist willing to take the risks of buggy prerelease software that may void you Apple warrant, just leave the betas alone and wait until the finished product.

Oh yeah, did I mention to just say no to pre-release software?
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Review: Fuse Chicken Titan and Titan Loop

Lightning Cables have typically lacked one thing: ruggedness. You can get a protection case for your iPhone, but it’s hard to find a protection cable. Well, Fuse Chicken has come to our rescue with the Titan, a full length cable Lightning to USB Cable with a tough, but flexible industrial grade steel outer covering. If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a pocket version called the Titan Loop.

Fuse Chicken

Fuse Chicken is the Brainchild of inventor Jon Fawcett. The company recently launched a number of heavy duty dock/cable hybrids under the Bobine name. I had the chance to test several of their products during my tenure at Geek Beat and was nothing but impressed. Jon knows how to make a product and these Titans don’t disappoint.

Titan

The Titan is 1 meter/ 39 inches long. That’s the same listed length as the standard lightning cable, but the longer light and usb connector sheaths make it a little bit longer. The cable has a thick steel outer cover. Its even tougher than it looks and it’s really damn tough looking to begin with. Its the first lightning cable I’ve used where I don’t have to baby it. The titan can be mistreated as much as you want and come back for more. This is an industrial strength cable designed for your gig bag… or your children. What’s even more remarkable is how flexible the Titan is. It’ll go most anywhere your standard and easily breakable lightning cable can. It’s not a special use cable, the Titan can be your everyday cable.

The Titan adheres to the Made for iPhone/iPad/iPod (MFi) standards. That means it’s been tested by Apple for compatability. You won’t get that dreaded “cable not supported” error you’ll find in cheap no-name cables. It worked flawlessly both in charging and data. The USB and Lightning connector sheaths are oversized and more rugged, but not as big as you think. The lightning end will work even with protection cases which are notorious for their narrow openings. Fuse Chicken went ahead and made the perfect Lightning Cable.

Pricing

The Titan is available both on Fuse Chicken’s website and Amazon for around $35. When you can get a 1m MFi cable for $10, this is expensive. However, if you keep replacing those $10 cables for frayed ends or broken wires, it adds up. The Titan will last. Its worth the extra money.

Final Thoughts on the Titan

This is the most rugged cable out there for your iPhone or iPod. its also extremely flexible and fully compatible both electrically and physically with your iDevice and its cases. The $35 isn’t cheap, but if you’re tough on cables, it’s worth the money. Fuse Chicken really out did themselves and made the ultimate lightning cable in the Titan. If you’re a professional and you have a iPad or iPhone in a protection case you need to add this to your gear kit.

Rating: 5/5

Pros

  • Steel Casing is tough as hell
  • Casing almost as flexible as a traditional cable
  • Full 1m meter length
  • MFi Certified and 100% compatible
  • No issues at all with cases.

Cons

  • A little pricy at $35

Titan Loop

The Titan Loop is a 9” keychain version of the Titan. Its constructed of exactly the same materials, as many of the same advantages apply. While Fuse Chicken markets this as a keychain cable, I found using it as a keychain to be a little impractical. However, it easily fits in your pocket or purse with only a hint that it’s there. The Loop folds up nice and neat and is just a tad bit longer than other pocket cables like the Kanex GoBuddy+. But it’s a lot tougher and more flexible.

What more can I say, the Titan Loop is the Titan only much smaller and more mobile.

Pricing

At $30 their their site and Amazon, the Titan Loop is also pretty pricey, but compared to other pocket cables, the price isn’t all that more expensive. Plus it has the distinction of being the only steel pocket lightning cable I’ve seen.

Final Thoughts on the Titan Loop

The Titan Loop is a very good pocketable cable, but it’s not that good of a keychain. Its small, its tough, and it’s a bit expensive. If you want a cable that will go everywhere with you and won’t break, the Titan Loop is your best.

Rating: 4.3/5

Pros

  • Steel Casing is tough as hell
  • Casing almost as flexible as a traditional cable
  • MFi Certified and 100% compatible
  • No issues at all with cases.
  • Easily pocketable

Cons

  • Not cheap at $30
  • Only 9” long
  • Isn’t very good as a keychain

Review: Readdle Spark Email Client for iOS

I’ve tried every single iOS client for iOS and for some reason I’ve decided for various reasons I’ve disliked something about them all except Apple mail enough where I stopped using them.  As someone with a few lingering quirks from OCD, I can be very picky when it comes to apps.  This is doubly so with email and RSS reader apps.  The newest email client is one I’ve ended up absolutely loving, Spark from iOS developer Readdle.

Spark features a really powerful smart mailbox with commonsense groups.  It tries to group emails into 5 different categories: New emails – emails you want to see most, Notifications,  Newsletters, pinned emails, and your overall inbox.  Each one of these categories can be viewed 3 different ways: a unified email box with all your accounts funneled in, grouped emails for each inbox, or each inbox separately.  You can choose to customize your preference for each one.  So you can have all your important mail grouped by individual inbox and all the store emails you get lumped together.  Its smart enough to know that you’re probably going to want to be looking at a job site’s email rather than put it in the newsletter section.  Email actions in your inboxes is based on half or full swipes so getting through unwanted emails, pinning them, or archiving  is quick and ready.  Spark also gives you access to the full mailboxes of all included email accounts.  The search is powerful is has natural langue support.

What really makes Spark special is the customization and integration with other services.  Its highly compatible with Google Gmail, MS Exchange, MS Outlook, Yahoo, iCloud, and quickly and easily sets up any custom email servers.  Same story with cloud services.  You get Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, MS OneDrive, Evernote, OneNote, Readability, Pocket, and Instapaper.  The client is compatible with 1Password and LastPass extensions which makes signing in to these services very easy.  Most of the interface is customizable as well.  You can rearrange the top and bottom sections, add new categories, change what the swipes do and add widgets.  The only real widget available is currently for the calendar, but there’s quite a few more coming soon like access to your Apple and Amazon accounts, flight information, packing tracking, weather, and even statistics information.  Spark has the potential to become a lot better than it is and its already the best email client I have ever used.  Readdle left no stones uncovered.  Yes, there’s even an Apple watch companion app.

When it comes to flaws, I’m hard pressed to find them.  It functions exactly how my work flow wants an email client to be.  If there’s an achilles heal at this point its that the apps is iPhone only at that stage.  If you’re on a iPad and you don’t want to run an iPhone app, you’re out of luck.  given Readdle’s history though, I would expect a universal version to come eventually.

Readdle’s apps usually trend towards the $3-10 range range and I would have gladly paid that price in a heartbeat.  Readdle had other ideas and is offering it totally for free.  For $10 it would have been a bargain for its functionality, free there is no reason not to download Spark.  Like all iOS apps you can grab it exclusively from the Apple App Store.

It does’t happen very often, but Spark is an app I can full get behind.  Its what an email app should be.  Its feature packed, customizable, fast, and you can’t beat the price.  It also makes you more productive.  What are you waiting for, go download it now!